ROBINSON, Rowan Jaie

Service Number: 8511029
Enlisted: 30 January 2006
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: Incident Response Regiment
Born: Wahroonga, New South Wales, 3 September 1987
Home Town: Cudgen, Tweed, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Soldier, Lifesaver
Died: Killed in Action, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 6 June 2011, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Melaleuca Station Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, N.S.W.
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Yungaburra Afghanistan Avenue of Honour
Show Relationships

Afghanistan Service

30 Jan 2006: Enlisted Australian Army, Private, SN 8511029
1 Sep 2007: Involvement Australian Army, Sapper, SN 8511029, 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment
1 Mar 2011: Involvement Australian Army, Sapper, SN 8511029, Incident Response Regiment

Help us honour Rowan Jaie Robinson's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.


Sapper Robinson enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in January 2006. After four years of service in the Royal Australian Engineers, he was posted to the Incident Response Regiment, with whom he deployed to Afghanistan in 2011.

During Sapper Robinson’s service in the Australian Army he deployed on the following Operations:

  • OPERATION SLIPPER (Afghanistan) 19 Sep 2007- 20 Apr 2008
  • OPERATION SLIPPER (Afghanistan) 01 Mar 2011- 06 Jun 2011

Sapper Robinson was awarded the following Honours and Awards:

 - Australian Active Service Medal with clasp ICAT
 - Afghanistan Campaign Medal
 - Australian Defence Medal
 - NATO Medal Clasp ISAF
 - Return Active Service Badge
 - Australian Combat Badge


Biography contributed by Sharyn Roberts

Contributed by Marie and Peter Robinson

Speech delivered by Peter Robinson on the occasion of the launch of the book, "Those who Served" in June 2015

“Those Who Served”              

Rowan Jaie Robinson   KIA Afghanistan   6th June  2011

The NSW Governor, Your Excellency, General, the Honourable David Hurley, distinguished guests, members of the surf lifesaving fraternity, ladies and gentleman

Marie and I would firstly like to thank Surf Lifesaving Australia and Surf Life Saving NSW for the invitation here today for the launch of the book “Those Who Served”. While we realise that Rowan is only one of more than 700 stories to be told we are extremely humble and proud to be given the opportunity today to tell the story of the most recent to fall. We would also like to thank Brian Vicary and the committee of Cudgen Headland Surf Lifesaving Club for nominating Rowan and make a special thank you to Barb and Mark Buckman for enabling a picture of Rowan to be embossed on the stern of Cudgen’s surf boat.

Rowan Jaie Robinson was born in Sydney and the 3rd September, 1987, our youngest son and brother of Rachael, Ben and Troy. Shortly after his birth the family moved north to the small rural community of Cudgen in far northern NSW, five minutes from the golden sand and clear blue waters of Kingscliff beach.

Rowan joined Cudgen Headland Surf lifesaving club as a five year old nipper in 1992, and from the time of that first wading race through the shore break when he was dumped by a rogue wave and came up covered in sand and seaweed with that big smile of his, all over his face, we then knew, that Rowan had found his second home, the ocean. Little did we know at the time what a defining influence the ocean and surf lifesaving   would   have in shaping Rowan later in life.

Rowan wore the blue and white cap of Cudgen Headland with purpose and pride. In surf lifesaving carnivals, one word, described Rowan, ‘competitive’. He did not go on to become a Guy Leech or a Trevor Hendy, his destiny lay elsewhere, but Rowan never left any petrol in the tank. He epitomised the image of the bronzed Aussie, 6’4” tall, and 95kg of lean, hard tanned muscle, a mop of blonde hair, a cheeky big smile and a wicked sense of humour. It was no surprise when Rowan was corrupted into the ranks of the boaties in his late teens.

At the completion of year 12 Rowan applied to join the Australian Army as an officer cadet at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. He was told to get some real life experience and reapply when older. Unperturbed he applied and was accepted as a ‘combat engineer’ in the Australian Army. When he asked what combat engineers do he was told by the recruiting officer, “they build stuff and they blow stuff up” Rowan replied I can do that.

In February 2006, Rowan underwent his basic military training in “Kapooka” at Wagga Wagga. He then attended the School of military engineering in Holworthy in Sydney where he completed his initial engineer training and at the conclusion of that course he was awarded the “student of merit”.

In July, 2006 Rowan was posted to the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment in Townsville as a member of 2 platoon 22 troop. Rowan arrived in Townsville a few days before the interdivisional swimming carnival. 3 CER had never won the swimming carnival and fact that were struggling to find a team.

When they found out that Rowan could swim he was in the side. Rowan entered in every event and at the end of the day 3 CER won the carnival and Rowan had won the respect and gratitude of the officers and men of his new regiment.

In November, 2007 Rowan deployed with his troop on his first tour of Afghanistan as part of Operation Slipper Reconstruction Task Force 3. Australian troops joined Afghan, British, Dutch, Canadian and U.S forces the following month in a major operation to clear the dangerous Baluchi and Chora Valleys of Taliban influence. Rowan spent many weeks outside the wire. He honed his skills and showed exceptional skill and courage as a front line combat engineer. He saw firsthand the harsh realities of   war.  He was there when his platoon Sgt Liddyard was badly disfigured when an improvised explosive device he was attempting to disarm, detonated. Out of the dust the pain and the pandemonium one man stood tall. Sapper Rowan Robinson showing leadership qualities beyond his youth, helped save the life of his platoon sergeant and the operational integrity of the troop. Footage of Rowans actions that day are still used today as a training tool for prospective combat engineers. Rowan should have died on that first tour when the man patrolling next to him stood on an IED. Lady luck was smiling that day it failed to detonate.

Rowan returned to Townsville from that tour a changed man. Gone was innocence of youth replaced by a desire to return.  Rowan was asked by is commanding officer if he would be interested in becoming an officer. He politely declined saying he had other plans. He wanted to return to Afghanistan at the next level as a special operations engineer. Rowan was always proud of his country and the lifestyle it had afforded him. I had never considered him a patriot but that changed after Anzac Day 2008. Rowan and his brother Ben had made arrangements to take me to the dawn service. I had worked late the day before and when they woke me to go I said “I might give it a miss”. Rowan soon put me in my place. He said, “Dad did the diggers give it a miss!”

Rowan applied to become a special operations engineer with the renown, Incident Response Regiment. While his application was being processes he was diligent. He successfully completed courses in combat first aid, advanced signals, basic parachute, physical training instructor and basic infantry reconnaissance course. In July 2009 he attended the junior leadership course at Lavarack Barracks Townville and at its completion he was awarded the ‘operations award’. Later, that year he led his team to victory in the interdivisional race to the top of Mt Bartle Ferrer and back, Qld’s highest mountain. In November of 2009 he was awarded “Sapper of excellence”

In 2010 Rowan was posted to the Incident Response Regiment, Sydney   where he became part of 2 troop Alpha Squadron. This regiment fought and died under the banner of the axe and the shield. There motto ‘inter hastas et hostes’ means between the spears and the enemy. With the Special Air Service and Commando regiments suffering increasing casualties in Afghanistan as a result of improvised explosive devices, members of the Incident Response Regiment had been embedded within these teams since 2005 to help negate the threat of the unseen enemy.

They soon earned a reputation among there special forces comrades as men of insane courage, who led from the front and who showed a cool head and a clear mind in the face of certain death.

On 6th March, 2011 Rowan deployed with his troop on his second tour of Afghanistan. He was the sapper of choice of team tango, Charlie Company, 2nd Commando Regiment. Tango’s motto was ‘be worthy’ and they were. Tango was led by the highly decorated Sgt Brett Wood and they were involved in some of the fiercest battles of the war. Rowan was a Keshmesh Khan in Helmund Province when Sgt Wood was killed by an IED. With the battle far from over, Rowan saved lives that day leading the rest of the team to safety through deadly ground.

On 6th June, 2011 tango were part of a joint US Drug Enforcement Administration, Afghan and Australian Special Forces mission again in Helmund province, not far from where Sgt Wood was killed. In their first mission of the day tango uncovered one of the largest caches of weapons, drugs and bomb making components of the war. The Taliban were not going to forfeit this prize without a fight and during the ensuing battle this was destroyed on site. Tango then moved on to their second mission of the day near the village of Bagram. Tango was to be the blocking force and provide overwatch from an Old Russian gun emplacement on the high ground above the village. Rowan cleared the area for IED’s and booby traps and tango took up their positions. About 1400 local time their overwatch position came under increasingly accurate small arms fire as the assault teams moved through the village below. Air support time on target had expired and it was difficult to locate from where exactly this increasing accurate fire was coming from. With total disregard for his own safety, Rowan moved forward to fight shoulder to shoulder with his commando brothers. Many men could have died that day with their position later being described “like a sniper range”, but only one man fell, lady luck had finally deserted Rowan and he died as a result of a gunshot wound to the neck. Rowan was the 27th soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. Rowan was 23 years old.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “in the end it is not the years in your life that counts but the life in your years”

It is not difficult to draw comparisons between soldiers and surf lifesavers. Both are extremely fit, well trained and motivated. Both have complete faith in the person beside them. While the ocean is not full of snipers, IED’s or booby traps, it can be just as deadly. If you ever have the honour to walk the Kokoda track you will come to a special place the Isurava War Memorial. This memorial is set on the site where a bunch of Australian volunteer soldiers, who were considered, third rate, by the powers to be, back in Australia, gave the Japanese their first bloody nose of the war.

On the obelisk in the centre of this memorial there are four words. Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice. We should remember, why more than 8000 surf life savers enlisted and more than 700 surf lifesavers paid the ultimate price. Many of these men would have already possessed these virtues. May their selfless service and admirable dedication to duty as surf life savers and service men, be remembered.

Lest We forget.